It was 1968; I had flunked out of college, and getting drafted was imminent. I looked into all the service branches and chose the Navy, or should I say it chose me? I was "underweight" and went back three times for weigh-ins before making the minimum. To this day I think the recruiter added a few pounds on my behalf. My best friend and I joined on the buddy plan, and one evening the recruiter called but said he only had one slot available. Did I want it?
"Both of us or neither of us," I said. He called Ron, and Ron told him the same thing.
About an hour later, he called back again and said he had gotten another slot from a recruiter in a neighboring town. Both of us could leave for boot camp. I asked when.
"I'll pick you up at 0500 tomorrow," he said.
After picking up Ron, he came to my house and off we went to the Federal Mart Building in St. Louis—more physical examinations, then into a room to be sworn in. Then we were off to the airport on a bus. Ron and I wanted the "real Navy" boot camp and chose to go to San Diego. Once on the charter flight, a TWA Constellation, we quickly figured out after a stop in Kansas City for more "recruits" that we were the only ones on that plane going into the Navy—everyone else was going to Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) in San Diego. Marines! Ron and I never said a word.
Upon arrival the gray Navy buses were waiting for us, as were the drill instructors. They were actually very nice—until we went through that gate at MCRD. It was then an amazing transformation took place. Both our fathers had been in World War II or Korea, so we knew what to do. We kept our mouths shut and ran off that bus to those yellow footprints as fast as we could. The drill instructor was going up and down the ranks intimidating the "boots," and both of us were scared out of our minds. The entire time, I was trying to figure out how that recruiter snookered us into the Marines?
It wasn't too long until a jeep pulled up and a Navy first class signalman got out. He and the drill instructor knew one another, and the fire lamp was lit. When they finished their cigarettes, that drill instructor called us out in language I can't print here. We climbed in the back of that jeep and went "over to the other side."
About eight weeks later, I spent a week in the hospital and when I got out, they made me start boot camp all over. Yep, I did nearly two boot camps instead of one, and didn't see Ron again for three-and-a-half years.